Andrew Pincus: A meme du jour whose resonance 'booms'

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LENOX — Here in the retirement palace, folks talk about their aches and pains, their doctors and lawyers, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. One thing you don't hear much about is "OK boomer."

"OK boomer" will pass, like other slogans and fads. We ancients have learned, sort of, to cope in an age of digital gizmos, vaping and 1,000 cable channels. "OK boomer," emblazoned on sweatshirts and hoodies, is the loose revolt by post-boomer generations against the outrages and injustices — chiefly, climate change — perpetrated by the postwar baby boomer generation.

In other words, "OK boomer" is a knock on our kids. And thus, you might say, on us.

Consider: One of the most impressive recent shows of "OK boomer"-style power was the halftime protest by Yale and Harvard students that shut down the rivals' football game in Yale Bowl, forcing completion of the game in the dark. (There's old-time pre-boomer power for you: an iconic football stadium without lights for night play.)

The Ivy protesters might not have sported "OK boomer" gear out there but the message was the same: You guys screwed it up for us. Look at the mess you've made of the planet. Look at the cost of college. Get rid of your polluter stocks. Repent. Divest.

Trump is a dirty word here at the retirement palace; we are mostly old-fashioned FDR-liberal (now "progressive") in persuasion. But we remnants of the Depression, World War and Korean War cohort ("oh no, not the Greatest Generation thing again, Gramps") sacrificed and served. We rebuilt Europe, Japan and the United States. We wanted our children to have it easier than we did. That was our crime. We sent our children out into a more privileged world than ours.

The promise didn't entirely work out, of course. The now-doddering gang who defeated Hitler and Hirohito went on to wage a pointless, unwinnable war in Vietnam. Faced with the choice of escaping, fighting or even dying in that war, the boomers revolted. Rage spilled into onto the campuses and into streets.

Revolution against Vietnam morphed into revolution against racial injustice, climate degradation, lop-sided wealth, all the rest. Revolution against that revolution gave us Donald Trump.

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All that is well known.

Here in the retirement palace, we talk about aches and pains but we worry about the future of the planet and its inhabitants, human and otherwise. We claim no personal stake in the matter — we won't live long enough to see how it plays out, we say — but we kid ourselves. We worry about the legacy we're leaving our grandchildren, their children, their grandchildren, and so on down the line.

We worry about the fate of the God-given (however you define God) beauty and goodness of the planet that sustains us. The Bible's promise of dominion over the earth and all the creatures that move upon it is not enough. We're destroying them, and in the process dooming ourselves.

Already, aging Boomers are a tide about to surge into old folks' paradise palaces like ours. As it is, they stream through now on visits to parents, looking a little gimpy and crinkled, if you please, with grandchildren in tow. OK boomer, we see you coming.

Hooray for the students who shut down the football game. Hooray for 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who stood before the United Nations and pleaded for environmental sanity. Hooray for organizations that say wolves and bears have as much right to life as humans. Boo to students who, in the name of those ideals, silence speakers who think other thoughts.

Every generation is born with revolt in its blood, beginning with revolt against parents. Sooner or later, that revolt morphs into action, for good or ill. Donald Trump's revolt seems still that of an infant, shaking his rattle in his crib and throwing a tantrum against those who deny him every cookie in the box.

So sure, you Generations X-, Y- and Z-ers , you millennials, go after those boomers, our progeny. They were so busy making money, acquiring goods and having kids of their own — living the good life, that is — that they didn't see, or want to see, the pollution, poverty and injustice they spawned. So now the planet fries and floods, people sleep on sidewalks and tax cuts buy mansions for the already mansion-burdened wealthy.

OK Gramps, back to the cave. Your time has passed.

Andrew Pincus writes about classical music for The Eagle and is an occasional contributor to the editorial pages.


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